I am responsible for my own attitude. My spouse may treat me unkindly, or ignore me, but I am still responsible for choosing my thoughts. The challenge is to have a loving attitude. The question is, “What is the loving way for me to look at this?” Love always seeks the well being of the other person. This does not mean that I am unconcerned about myself and meeting my needs, but my first concern must be for my spouse.
This does not imply that I am to become a doormat. That is not the loving thing to do. Accepting such behavior is not loving my spouse. When you choose the attitude of love, you are asking yourself, “What is best for my spouse in this situation?” Always that means holding your spouse accountable for unacceptable behavior.
“I love you too much to sit here and allow you to destroy yourself. What you are doing is hurting me, but it is also detrimental to your well-being and I will not be a part of it.” This is a loving attitude.
Trouble is inevitable, but misery is optional. Attitude has to do with the way I choose to think about things. It has to do with one’s focus. Two men looked through prison bars – one saw mud, the other stars. Two people were in a troubled marriage – one cursed, the other prayed. The difference always is attitude.
Negative thinking tends to beget negative thinking. Focus on how terrible the situation is, and it will get worse. Focus on one positive thing, and another will appear. In the darkest night of a troubled marriage, there is always a flickering light. Focus on that light, and it will eventually flood the room.
Maintaining a positive attitude in a troubled marriage may seem impossible, but the Christian has outside help. Lord, help me to see my marriage the way you see it. Help me to view my spouse the way you view them. Help me to think the thoughts that you have toward them. This kind of praying will lead you to a positive attitude.
A positive attitude can be the salvation of a difficult situation. A lady said to me, “My husband hasn’t had a full-time job in three years. The good part is that we can’t afford cable TV, so we spend a lot more time talking on Monday nights. She went on to say, “These three years have been tough, but we have learned a lot. Our philosophy has been “Let’s see how many things we can do without that everybody else thinks they have to have.” It’s amazing how many things you can do without. It’s been a challenge, but we are going to make the most of it.”
There is a wife who has learned the power of a positive attitude. Do you think it has been easy for her? For him? Not at all. But a negative, critical, pessimistic attitude would have made things worse. Why would you want to make things worse?
We must not yield to our natural tendencies. We must seek to walk the high road of looking for God’s hand in everything. Even in a troubled marital situation, God is always at work.
The challenge of keeping a positive attitude is not a new idea. It is found clearly in the first-century writing of Paul the apostle. He wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds. …Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Phil. 4:4-7.
We are responsible for the way we think. Even in the worst marital situation, we choose our attitude. Maintaining a positive attitude requires prayer. Paul said, bring your requests to God. Tell him what you want. Will God always do what we ask? No, but what does happen is that “the peace of God” descends on our emotions and our thoughts. God calms our emotions and directs our thoughts. With a positive attitude, we become a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem.
One reason my attitudes are so important is that they affect my actions–that is my behavior and words. If I have a pessimistic, defeatist, negative attitude, it will be expressed in negative words and behavior. The reality is that I may not be able to control my environment: sickness, alcoholic spouse, teenager on drugs, mother who abandoned me, father who abused me, spouse who is irresponsible, aging parents. But I am responsible for what I do within my environment. My attitude will greatly influence my behavior.
If you want to know your attitude, look at your words and behavior. If your words are critical and negative, then you have a negative attitude. If your behavior is designed to hurt or get back at your spouse, then you have a negative attitude. Guarding the attitude is the most powerful thing you can to affect your behavior. And, your behavior greatly influences your spouse.